Essel Group comes up with a new initiative

Business mogul announces new cricket league

Cricinfo staff

April 3, 2007

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Subhash Chandra, who heads the Essel Group, owners of the Zee brand, has announced a breakaway cricket series called the Indian Cricket League (ICL). The Essel Group will invest Rs 100 crore (US$ 23 million approx) in the project, which will run parallel to the leagues and tournaments of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The Indian board said it will take an appropriate decision on the letter from Zee Television, seeking permission to start a parallel league. "The President, BCCI, Sharad Pawar has received a letter from Mr Subhash Chandra, Zee Television, seeking permission to start the Indian Cricket League. An appropriate decision in this matter will be taken by the Board," BCCI Secretary Niranjan Shah said in a media release. Meanwhile, BCCI vice-president Shashank Manohar said from Nagpur that it was premature to react to the formation of a parallel body for the game.

The ICL will have six teams with two Indian internationals, four overseas players and eight juniors in each side, though Chandra didn't name those players, if any, who'd already signed up. At the end of the third year, there will be 16 teams in the ICL. Chandra, while announcing this initiative in Delhi, said this initiative was not in conflict with the BCCI but would be complementary to them.

Stating that the Indian board's selection process has failed to create "a reserve pipeline of players", Chandra added that the idea behind the league is to create an "ideal pool with killing instinct". The BCCI, he said, would be free to draw from the talent pool.

"We feel that despite cricket being a passion, a religion in this country and despite it having great commercial players, BCCI has only six A-grade players signed up," he said. "Therefore, there is need for some united effort to create a talent pool. And this will be done by a three pronged strategy -discovery, diligence and display."

To achieve its objectives, Zee plans to set up cricket academies equipped with state-of-the-art facilities across the country. Sports medicine would be introduced to ensure players' fitness and a full-fledged record maintained of their behaviour pattern, diet-plan and game statistics. The group will also appoint talent scouts in all 35 states to hunt for young players to play in the ICL.

The finer points of ICL:

- 6 teams or clubs to play in the opening year
- Talks on with BCCI for gaining access to stadiums
- Executive Board of the league under installation
- Pool of referees and umpires to be created
- Rules committee to form regulations for ICL
- Ombudsman to look into grievances of players
- League to begin with Twenty20 format and move to ODI format
- League to be a joint venture between Essel Group and ILFS Group
- Each team to have a mentor, media manager, psychologist, physio
- Prize money for the winner- US$ 1 million
- League teams to compete with teams internationally
- Number of teams to be increased from 6 to 16 in three years

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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